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Gary Oldman Swerved A Batman Villain Role To Be Christopher Nolan's Jim Gordon

Christopher Nolan's reimagining of the Batman franchise breathed new life into the character and the movies in a way that may have saved it from oblivion. The way he did that was by first taking the character back to its darker and more grounded roots, and by casting a stellar group of actors to bring them to life.

Of course, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman led an ensemble cast that is still lauded today. But one of the more surprising standouts was Gary Oldman's Commissioner James Gordon. While the character was portrayed as a bit of a blundering type in the 1966 series and every bit the background character in Tim Burton's reimagining, Gordon became a mainstay in the Nolan trilogy. But it almost didn't happen that way. In an interview with Empire, Oldman revealed that Nolan initially had other plans for the legendary actor.

"Chris admired and was a fan of the comic and the original conception of Batman, which was darker," Oldman said. "So that was basically the pitch; he was saying, 'I'm going to reinterpret it, I'm going to try and base it more in reality, there will be explanations.' I thought it sounded fantastic. Then they came in with a villain. And I was at that point where you say, "Oh. I can't do that anymore". I really felt I'd played all the notes that I could in terms of villains." 

The decision to cast Oldman as Gordon came from the actor himself. "I had a think," Oldman revealed. "And then I said to my manager, "What about Jim Gordon?" And they proposed it to [Chris] and, to his credit, he cast me. He went, "Oh that's an interesting idea."

He became the everyman Gordon we love

Commissioner James Gordon is a long-standing friend and ally of Batman. Where Bruce Wayne wears the mask and works in the shadows to bring down organized crime and other nefarious villains throughout Gotham, someone has to do the same work in the light. Gordon is that man. Where Batman is a vigilante willing to bend the rules and sometimes break them to bring Gotham's worst criminals to justice, Gordon is a man of the law who strives to keep the tarnish away from the venture. While he is by Batman's side through his mission, he is his opposite in many ways.

Gary Oldman took the character down that path brilliantly by making him just like many others around him. He isn't bigger, he isn't stronger, and in many ways, he isn't better or worse than his fellow cops. The main difference between him and the rest of the department is that he has the courage to stand against the corruption deep within the system and accept the repercussions for doing the right thing. This approach to the character is what makes him so compelling. He is relatable. While Bruce Wayne is the out-of-reach hero that most of us could never touch in real life, Commissioner Gordon doesn't use money, gadgets, or any kind of super ability to fight crime; he simply stands up, shows up, and does the right thing.

Still, the revelation that Oldman was meant for a different role entirely does bring up a fairly intriguing question.

What villain would he have played?

While Gary Oldman could play any villain he wants in any franchise he wants, all you need to do is look at his IMDb, and you will see he can do virtually no wrong. There are really only three possibilities for him to have been considered for in the first of the franchise, "Batman Begins." The first is the leader of the entire criminal element in Gotham City, Carmine Falcone, who was played brilliantly by Tom Wilkinson. While he definitely has the caliber to bring Falcone to life, Oldman would be utterly underused in the role.

The second possibility and a much more intriguing option for the British legend to play is the sadistic Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka Scarecrow, eventually played by Cillian Murphy. Of course, his rendition of the character would have been one for the ages; we were treated to the breakout of Murphy, who, before he showed up here, was a relative unknown to American audiences. The result was a career that saw the actor appear in "Peaky Blinders," "Inception," "Dunkirk," and the upcoming "Oppenheimer."

The most obvious possible answer is that Oldman was originally set to play Henri Ducard, the character who turns out to be Ra's al Ghul. Liam Neeson ended up bringing the legendary Batman villain to life and delivered a brilliant portrayal. The character became a lightning rod for the events of the rest of the series, including the villain in the third movie, which Oldman could have done very well. But the actor made a great decision in suggesting he play the incorruptible cop because it gave us Oldman as a main character through three films, and arguably the best Commissioner Gordon to ever be portrayed in live action.